Route Du Rhum: Ultime Trimaran Leader Passes Halfway Point

Sailing 1800 miles in about 5 days is amazing to me. Gabart passes halfway point. (Actually he did that at about 10:00 UTC on Nov. 8th.)

Way down south, more than 1,800 nautical miles southwest of Saint Malo, in the warmer climes and flatter seas west of the Canaries, François Gabart continues to blaze a trail to Guadeloupe chased by Francis Joyon.

But as the days and hours tick by in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race, Joyon has found it harder to stay in touch with his younger rival. The skipper of IDEC Sport is now trailing Gabart’s blue and white rocketship, MACIF, by over 120 nautical miles.

The main enemy right now is fatigue. Garbart is entering the tradewinds to cross the Atlantic.

On another topic, a lot of the slower boats that took shelter in Spain because of the storms that greeted the fleet early in the race, may be coming back onto the course. (The Route Du Rhum isn’t a non-stop race, so they can still finish.)

One of the 40 class monohulls didn’t take refuge, is still working south. Merron – out of one “horror show” but one more to come. She has some interesting things to say about the race so far.

British skipper Miranda Merron on Campagne de France in Class40s has been showing all her experience in keeping her race on track through the very difficult conditions in the early stages of this Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.


“Top wind speed in yesterday’s horror show was 55 knots. A sail change in ‘just’ 35 knots cost me nine miles in the wrong direction. When things go wrong and it’s windy, it takes a while to sort out, especially alone.

There were 2 low-pressure systems (not big enough to get a name, but big enough to be problems) with a third one hitting tonight.

For a look at the conditions the folks are facing… The Atlantic Analysis (From NOAA) indicates that the “significant” wave-heights are on the order of 6 or 7 meters, in the area east of Spain. (That link isn’t to an archive, so it will change as NOAA updates the forecasts.)

‡ NOAA defines “significant wave height” as the average height of the top 1/3 of waves. Individual waves can be higher.

Route Du Rhum – Problems at the Start

In the first 48 hours of the race, a few people have had trouble.

First trouble hit the Ultime class trimarans. Armel Le Cléac’h capsizes but is reported safe.

The French superstar sailor Armel Le Cléac’h has capsized in his maxi trimaran, Banque Populaire IX, in the most serious incident yet to hit the fleet as the skippers contend with a major storm in the Atlantic.

But not the only problems encountered by these huge trimarans.

First to go was Seb Josse after Maxi Edmond de Rothschild broke her starboard hull; then Thomas Coville followed Josse in seeking refuge in La Coruna in northern Spain when Sodebo Ultim’ suffered structural failure in its forward beam.

And the monohulls also have had problems with that storm. Goodchild and Joschke dismasted as gale hits.

The second night of racing proved brutal for British skipper Sam Goodchild who was dismasted while lying in third place in Class40 on Narcos Mexico and Franco-German racer Isabelle Joschke whose mast also broke on her IMOCA, MONIN. Both skippers are safe and are heading for port.

All that transpired in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Spain.

Route Du Rhum

November 4th seems like a crazy day to be sailing the Atlantic near northern France, but that is what The Route Du Rhum is. From Saint-Malo, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. A transatlantic single-handed race. For the IMOCA 60 class Vendée Globe, the Route Du Rhum serves as the qualification race for new skippers. To compete in the Vendée Globe, you must have completed a single-handed open-ocean race of at least 2500 nautical miles. (The Vendée Globe is around the world, non-stop, alone, with no assistance.)

According to the Wiki, the current record time, set 4 years ago, is 7 days 15 hours 8 minutes and 32 seconds, held by Loick Peyron aboard Banque Populaire VII (an Ultime class trimaran).

The fastest boats will be the Ultime class trimarans. They are about 100 feet in length, and can sail about 800 miles per day.

There are too many skippers in this race for me to keep them straight. There are multiple classes. IMOCA 60, Open 50 ft foiling trimarans, and more. The video is a quick introduction to the IMOCA class skippers. (The subtitles are in English – best I could do. You should make the video full screen if you want to read those subtitles.) When YouTube – and Alphabet – freak out over the privacy extensions in your browser, use that link.

While open ocean sailing is nothing to be taken lightly, I don’t think anyone has been lost on the Route Du Rhum since the 1978 race when Alain Colas, a French sailor on the trimaran Manureva disappeared 16 November 1978.